Taking offense, at home and abroad

There is nothing wrong with being a Mark Steyn groupie, not when he writes stuff like this, as part of a larger article about how easily offended people are, both in the West and the (mid)East:

But the point is that the right not to be offended is now the most sacred right in the world. The right to freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of movement, all are as nothing compared with the universal right to freedom from offense. It’s surely only a matter of time before “sensitivity training” is matched by equally rigorous “inoffensiveness training” courses. A musician friend of mine once took a gig at an elevator-music session, and, after an hour or two of playing insipid orchestral arrangements of “Moon River” and “Windmills of Your Mind,” some of the lads’ attention would start to wander, and they’d toot their horns a little too boisterously. The conductor would stop and admonish them to bland things down a bit. In a world in which everyone is ready to take offense, it’s hard to keep the mood Muzak evenly modulated.

***

East is east, and west is west, and in both we take offense at anything: Santas saying “Ho ho ho,” teddy bears called Mohammed. And yet the difference is very telling: The now-annual Santa lawsuits in the “war on Christmas” and the determination to abolish even such anodyne expressions of faith as the Pledge of Allegiance are assaults on the very possibility of a common culture. By contrast, the teddy bear rubbish is a crude demonstration of cultural muscle intended to cow and intimidate. When east meets west, when offended Muslims find themselves operating in Western nations, they discover that both techniques are useful: Some march in the streets, Khartoum-style, calling for the pope to be beheaded, others use the mechanisms of the West’s litigious, perpetual grievance culture to harass opponents into silence.

Perhaps somewhere in Sydney there’s a woman who’s genuinely offended by hearing Santa say “ho ho ho” just as those New Hampshire atheists claim to be genuinely offended by the Pledge of Allegiance. But their complaints are frivolous and decadent, and more determined groups are using the patterns they’ve established to shut down debate on things we should be talking about. The ability to give and take offense is what separates free societies from Sudan.

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